Fall 2011

Dreamslands: The Universe of Dreams in Chinese Culture

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-124


Paola Zamperini (Section 01)


The course will explore the world of dreams in pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Chinese literature and culture. Beginning with Daoist and Buddhist sources, and proceeding in a chronological fashion, we will navigate the dreamscapes mapped by traditional oneiromancy, philosophy, poetry, drama, and fiction, all the way to contemporary theatrical and cinematic discourse. What do dreams mean? How does their language intersect with the language of faith, desire, gender, politics, power, and fear? How similar and how different are our dreaming brains today from those of Chinese philosophers that lived three thousand years ago? Do cultural differences make us dream different dreams? These are just some of the questions that we will try to answer together during the semester. In order to do so, we will look at the semantic, religious, and aesthetic function of dreams in the changing world of Chinese culture, connecting our findings to recent discoveries in the fields of contemporary psychology, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience. Where possible, we will also engage in comparison of dream-related practices and traditions in other South and East Asian contexts, such as those of India and Tibet. This seminar will expose students to scholarship produced in different historical periods in China, East Asia, Europe, and the United States about dream culture, in order to expose students to different ways of studying dreams in heterogeneous academic and scientific contexts. The course will also introduce students to a number of analytical, critical, and creative ways to deconstruct dream culture, in China and beyond. Frequent writing assignments (ranging from response papers to book reviews, from creative writing to a final research essay) will engage students in creating college-level prose and analysis.

Fall semester.  Professor Zamperini.


2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011